Community South Orange Towns

PHOTOS: South Orange’s B.Ruth Soffen Celebrates 102 Years of Life


“You have to have something exciting to look forward to every day; that’s what makes the heart beat.”

That’s how B.Ruth Soffen explains her 102 years of living large.

Friends and neighbors gave B.Ruth something exciting to look forward today on Friday, April 15 (not her actual birthday) when they held a party for her in the main dining room of the Village Apartments of the Jewish Federation where B.Ruth has lived since 2006.

B.Ruth entered the dining room to applause, looking decades younger than her age. She did not appear to need the walker that she pushed out in front of her. Her daughter Nanette Winter helped to clear the path. President of the Village Tenants Association Alba Abbate, who organized the event with Cheryl Kasye, Village Apartments Site Manager, echoed what everyone in the room was thinking when she later complimented Winter on being “a dedicated and devoted daughter.”

Also at the event were: South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, who read a proclamation in honor of B.Ruth (see below); President of the South Orange Senior Citizens Advisory Committee and South Orange Rescue Squad First Lieutenant Scott Egelberg (“He comes to our aid more often than we would like!” said Abbate); plus several members of the press.

“B.Ruth is still a vibrant and active senior, with many stories to tell,” said Abbate.

She wasn’t kidding.

B.Ruth’s biography, detailed in the proclamation, includes running bootlegged alcohol for her dad during Prohibition, hitchhiking to Florida, starting a business with her husband, and providing lines of credit to new immigrants who couldn’t find it elsewhere.

However, B.Ruth was more impressed with Collum than with herself. The centenarian was clearly delighted that the town’s top elected official had made the time to come to her birthday party and held tight to the younger woman’s hand, even bestowing kisses.

“The Lady Mayor!” said B.Ruth over and over.

See the proclamation here:

Township of South Orange Village
New Jersey
Recognizing the 102nd Birthday of B.Ruth Soffen

WHEREAS, B.Ruth Soffen, a resident of Village Apartments of the Jewish Federation in South Orange since 2006, will be celebrating her 102nd birthday in April 2016; and

WHEREAS, B.Ruth (the name behind the “B” remains a secret) grew up in Brooklyn, where her father pickled cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes in the basement of their home, selling his goods from a horse-drawn wagon, and where her brothers later established the Kerman Brothers Pickle Works purchasing a delivery truck in which B.Ruth took her road test; and

WHEREAS, during Prohibition, the elder Kerman became a bootlegger to help make ends meet, with the family selling alcohol by the pint from the house, which B.Ruth and her brothers delivered throughout Brooklyn by train; and

WHEREAS, B.Ruth’s trademark spunk carried her through many interesting times and to many destinations, including a hitch hike from Brooklyn to Florida; and

WHEREAS, in 1942, after a brief stint in Washington, D.C. to work as a secretary for the U.S. Army Air Forces Materiel Command Procurement Division, B.Ruth transferred back to New York City to work closer to home; and

WHEREAS, B.Ruth met her husband, Norman Soffen, in 1951, and opened Soffen Furniture Company in Union City in 1958; and

WHEREAS, Soffen Furniture Company was among the first to extend credit, when banks would not, to the community’s local residents, many of whom were Cuban immigrants, helping to furnish their apartments, still greeting her warmly during visits to the neighborhood years later; and

WHEREAS, upon an interview with Dr. Oz on her 100th birthday, B.Ruth revealed her secret to a long life, “You have to have something exciting to look forward to every day; that’s what makes the heart beat”; now

THEREFORE, BE IT PROCLAIMED by the Village President of the Township of South Orange Village, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, and the entire Village of South Orange that sincerest congratulations are hereby extended to B.Ruth Soffen as she celebrates her 102nd birthday and continues embracing life in South Orange Village.

Presented this 15th day of April, 2016

Sheena C. Collum, Village President

Click on photos to enlarge.

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